My graphic novel recommendation is actually a publisher – the outstanding Canadian publisher ‘Drawn and Quarterly’ – as I have tended to educate myself by learning the catalogues of the best publishers.
Firstly, they publish their own original books, notably by the group of Seth (my personal favourite of their books is his ‘It’s a Good Life If You Don’t Weaken’), Chester Brown and Joe Matt, and also later titles by graphic journalist Joe Sacco and uber-craftsman Chris Ware.
Also, they publish a regular magazine promoting new Comic talent, called appropriately, Drawn and Quarterly.
They also publish the best reprints of classic comics that are available. Many of you will have seen their reprints of the Moomin comics, and their reprints of the classic Manga artist Yoshihiro Tatsumi.
These all display their trademark attention to production quality, which added to the constant interest in the content of their books, makes all their items worthy of note, and desirable objets indeed.
PS. Also look out for their books by Gabrielle Bell
(partner of director Michel Gondry) books, and the superb Jason Lutes.
PPS. Other interesting publishers include Fantagraphics (the real authority for ‘interesting’ comics) and more recently Jonathan Cape in the UK have been reprinting the best from the US, and have started commissioning some of their own.
Back in the dark days of the mid 80′s I was a kid with a craving. From the first time i picked up a 2000AD comic I was hooked by the crazy stories, D.R. & Quinch being a personal favourite. The D.R. stands for diminished responsibility, in case you were wondering, and boy is it appropriate.
The two main proto-agonists are mutant college students who are out to shake up the world a little. Very much in the vein of Hunter S.Thompson and Dr.Gonzo (Oscar Zeta Acosta) in the mood for fear and loathing, only with a cosmic time travelling twist. As they spin through the ages encounters with historical figures mix with dinosaur hunts and other such oddities.
The co-creator, Alan Moore, is now known as the God of graphic novels, at that time his satire was a bit more underground. With these characters he was poking fun with a sharpened pencil, the language being a bizarre spin on L.A. valleyspeak, yet coming across as something that could only be English. Loveable, but dangerous, and most
of all hilarious. Just check out the Marlon Brando read-through to see what I mean. They will even help you with your personal problems, as they have an (incredibly excruciating) agony page. Go ahead and tickle your funny bone.
Marjane Satrapi’s moving account of her coming of age, in politically unstable Iran during the 1980s, makes not only brilliant, deeply thought-provoking reading, but also serves as an excellent introduction to the world of the Graphic Novel for those who have yet to venture into this medium.
Throughout the memoir we as readers experience the emotional upheaval the protagonist-author faces as a result of having to cope with changing regimes, different cultures (she moves to Europe as a young adult only to return home years later to a much-altered Iran) not as a spectacle but alongside her, as sympathetic witnesses to the troubles she faces as a young person. Reference to contemporary issues abound: her coming to terms with her faith and quest for her identity as a young woman in the early 1990s still resonate powerfully today.
Highly recommended to graphic-novel connoisseurs and novices alike.
One book I have read, and enjoyed immensely, is Purple Hibiscus. The debut novel from current darling of The South Bank Show is powerful and beautifully written, with closely observed characters in the context of Nigerian politics and religion. Winner of the Orange Prize for Half of a Yellow Sun, she only now seems to be getting the recognition she deserves as a rising world literary star. And, if you’vre already discovered her, why not try her brand new collection of stories, entitled The Thing Around Your Neck?
There are fairy tales, then there are Gaiman tales. As always with this writer he puts his own twist on every sentence that the reader savours. If there’s one person who can take the conventions known to anyone with even a passing interest in fantasy fiction and give them a refreshing boost, it’s Gaiman. Take a boy, a girl, a small sleepy village, and from that seed an adventure will grow. Picture yourself on a sunny day under a tree. You imagine yourself in a far off, yet familiar land where anything is possible. Without being able to resist you walk amongst the characters and situations set up in this wonderful world. With a warm glow you will close the pages, put the book away and carry away with you the feeling that someday you may go back to Wall, smell the market scents again and take those first few steps into the unknown, beyond the gates, where the falling stars land.
If you want evil Kings, witches, riches, unicorns, sky pirates, spells, smells, and all of it wrapped up in a love story of misunderstandings, look no further. You’re looking for a flawed hero with a hidden past that’s catching up with him, in fact it’s hurtling straight towards him with a bang. Of course you’re hunting down a book that actually makes you feel good without pandering to crushing condescension. How about something tender and sweet with a playful nature and enough darkness as to retain its rough edges. There are surprises thrown in at every angle and it’s all done in a page turning style that doesn’t have to be ashamed of itself. This is a book for everyone over 15, as opposed to the film adaptation this fits into the adult fairytale bracket.
Written early in his career (1932), this is possibly Mr.Steinbeck’s most personal fiction. Being a collection of connecting and interlacing stories that have an accumalative effect. All the stories take place in a rural farmland area based in Salinas, California of the 1920′s. As this was the area that he grew up in Steinbeck knew these characters and events all too well. How much they are based on truth should not be in question, however the heartfelt nature of the writing is beyond question. Using a subtle stance on the issues encountered, the essence of these people breaks through the pages without exaggerated manipulation.
The families are realistically portrayed as simple people eeking out an existence who come a cropper often through negligence, greed, or living beyond their means. The latter coming through particularly in the most memorable chapter (10), this is expressed through a man called Pat Humbert. Life is a daily grind for Mr.Humbert in which he inhabits the old rundown farmhouse that his crotchety parents passed away in. Leaving their presence in the belongings that surround him, like the rocking chair sitting still yet bothering him as if the dead still reside there. A young neighbour, Mae, starts of a chain of events by pointing out the house’s one area of beauty; a rose bush. The decrepit heap suddenly seems to have potential and Pat sees a way of escaping the clutches of bad memories by impressing Mae and winning her over. His act of being a man of business and means of course leads to tragedy and disappointment. Some may think that is all these stories will revolve around, but the poignancy lies within the pores of all human conditions, humour, joy, dignity, hope, empathy, as well as loss, pain, loneliness, poverty. While covering all the bases, positive and negative along the layered paths of the people in this arrid/lush community it builds up over the generations to reveal development. In ways that are only seen upon close examination the land contains the ghosts of what we are and go through in the experiences we live through.
— reviewed by Khalil, aged 12
Slam follows 16 year old skater Sam (skateboarder — definitely NOT iceskater as Sam himself would say!) who lives with his single parent young mum and who worships skate superstar Tony Hawk. When Sam finds himself at one of his mum’s work parties he meets 16 year old Alicia and when things grow serious between them Sam begins to develop into a man in the time it takes for a pregnancy test to show a result! Sam and Alicia’s mums react to the news in totally opposite ways: Alicia’s mum is horrified and wants her daughter to ditch Sam — and the baby — while Sam’s mum feels that she has been an awful example to her boy as she herself was only 16 when she had him.
On two occasions in the book Sam has prophetic dreams in which he travels a year into the future, both times after seeking guidance (in his mind) from his hero Tony Hawk.
Overall Slam is a great book — even for someone my age — warning of the burdens that can bear down on a teen’s shoulders as soon as you take off that condom!
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Alan Moore Chester Brown Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie Chris Ware D.R. & Quinch Drawn and Quarterly Fantagraphics Hampstead Hunter S.Thompson Joe Sacco John Steinbeck London Marjane Satrapi Neil Gaiman Nick Hornby Persepolis Purple Hibiscus Yoshihiro Tatsumi